BOB FOSSE'S DANCIN'
March 23, 2023
Screams and whistles rattled the theater during the Bob Fosse Dancin' performance on a Wednesday evening. Studded with wildly enthusiastic dance students, shouts of encouragement -- "that's right!" "work it!" -- saluted dancers pouring themselves 125% into the impossible dance deeds.
The title Bob Fosse Dancin' suggests all the choreography is credited to Fosse, but that isn't always the case, and when bits and pieces are pasted into the production, pacing drags. Admired for his very specific, minimalist isolated movements-- eyes shift, eyebrows lift, fingers flick, feet flex, and hips snap -- Fosse moves are excitingly expressive. Contrary to the exaggerated, "watch me" Broadway musical dance style, Fosse's technique is subtle and exquisitely difficult.
Directed and staged by the highly regarded Wayne Cilento, who was once a Fosse dancer, Dancin' suffers from overstatement. Many in the cast performed in Fosse productions, so they hold his voice inside them, but time passes and if a dancer isn't imbued in the razor sharp incisions of this technique, the form loses its tightness.
Opening strong, the show throws a spotlight on the legendary Black tap dancer "Mr. Bojangles" effortlessly interpreted by Manuel Jacob Guzman. The rousing "Percussion" section demands liquid body rolls tightened into crystalline joint isolations with bent legs raised to the side, held high while tilting hips up and down---yup, and no one crashes.
One after another, the hits like "Big Spender" and "Sing, Sing, Sing's" Trumpet Solo, originally made famous by the unforgettable Ann Reinking, features an exuberant Kolton Krouse. Other standouts include Jacob Guzman and Mattie Love in "Romantic Fantasy," and the balletic whiz Peter John Chursin along with Dylis Croman in "Big City Mime." Quite frankly, anything featuring Croman hits the mark. Superb Fosse dancers like Croman and Love are distinguished by the vivid clarity of each gesture, each glance and each thrillingly measured choreographic sequence.
In the Second Act, if I understand correctly, "America" appeared in the original Fosse Dancin' production, but was actually choreographed by Charles Ward. Well known songs like "Yankee Doodle Dandy" kick the pizazz up a notch, but by this point, the revue starts to feel over-packed with goodies.
Robert Brill's set and David Grill's lighting design smartly mesh to suggest the Broadway scene with spotlights, line maps of the NYC, plus ceiling high ladders and poles. The music, conducted and directed by Justin Hornback, churns uninhibitedly underneath the breath-catching dancing.
Larded with top notch dancers, singers and actors, the company keeps up a heart-pounding pace. Despite some qualms about the production's shape, you certainly can't do better than Dancin' when it comes to watching the best dancing on Broadway.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis